Disco Clam’s Light Flashing Abilities Explained

Geo Beats

by Geo Beats

3.6K
168 views
Scientists have been entranced by the disco clam’s ability to create a flashing light display for some time, but only recently figured out how the bivalve puts on its show.

Scientists have been entranced by the disco clam’s ability to create a flashing light display for some time, but only recently figured out how the bivalve puts on its show.

A team from the US and Australia studied the sparkly underwater creatures both in the lab and in their natural habitat.

They learned quite quickly that for years researchers had gotten it all wrong.

The flashes of light had previously been thought to be just another instance of bioluminescence, the light-emitting chemical reaction existing in many sea dwellers.

Close and numerous observations revealed that the disco clam doesn’t shine its own light at all.

Rather, it reflects it via perfectly formed silica spheres that are embedded in its mantle folds.

The reflectors are only on one side of them, so as they move back and forth they appear to be flashing, making them more like a disco ball than the strobe light they were once thought to be.

Why they do this is still a mystery, but there are some strong theories.

Among them is that it’s a protective measure. Brightly colored fish are often toxic, so it could be their way of pretending to be one.